“This song is ending. But the story never ends. We will sing to you…” – “Ood Sigma”, “Doctor Who“, “The End of Time”, Part 2 (2010)
Every few years or so I write a blog post about drum corps, which usually gets most of my readers to scratch their heads because, like most of America, you have no idea what in blazes a Drum & Bugle Corps is, and I just have spent too many years trying to explain it to people in a way that does justice to the activity… Although it’s catching on. At the rate we’re going this 5,000 year old marching musical activity my just gain a grasp on the public consciousness, within another couple of hundred years, or so. But here it goes…
Last night I got to watch a pay-per-view from Drum Corps International, of the 40th Anniversary DCI Easter Classic, or DCI East, as it’s more commonly known. It’s a show that I’ve competed in with my corps, the Bayonne Bridgemen (and won several times with them, bitd), and is kind of an annual, seasonal rite that draws drum corps fans from all over the Eastern Seaboard, and beyond. All the major corps are there from all the way out here in California, and there is music, and reveling, and food (although I hear a rumor that they stopped selling the French-fried Pierogies that were always my favorite, a most grievous situation that has to be addressed. What were you thinking, Allentown?)
As has been the tradition for the last dozen years, the Bridgemen Alumni performed an exhibition as the last corps of the night at DCI East… This occasion being very special to the corps and crowd, as the Bridgemen Organization has decided, for a variety of sensible reasons, to end the Alumni Corps program and focus on other, smaller, multipurpose marching arts activities to serve the community. In light of that, they’ve drawn a bigger corps than they’ve had in the last few years, as a lot of our members wanted to come back and give it one last shot before the music ends, so to speak.
I’ve been out here in California for much of the Alumni Corps existence… In fact I’ve never seen them live, or in other than YouTube videos, so watching the PPV last night was an especially great treat… And the corps didn’t disappoint. They came into the stadium, as is our way, and blew the place apart with a wonderful performance of some of our greatest hits from years ago: Maynard Ferguson’s “Pagliacci” (Vesti La Giubba), Chuck Mangione’s “Land of Make Believe”, “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, and our trade mark, the fanfare from the “William Tell Overture.”
For many years after the original Bridgemen folded, I used to feel a serious sense of loss when going to the DCI World Championships. Over time, you saw fewer of our corps jackets, and members, around, and when seeing alums from Garfield, or Cavies, or any one of the corps that was still around getting to celebrate their traditions, their legacies, and their share memories of a time so formative in our lives… It was if a voice, a very different, but no more or less significant, voice had been lost to the drum corps community, and the community was the lesser for it. Anyway, it was always a of a bittersweet time of year.
Thanks to all of the folks who have worked so hard to keep the Bridgemen name alive, and have put so much time, and passion, and love, into keeping the memory of our story alive within the drum corps memory, that’s no longer the case.
Attached is a video of last night’s performance of “In the Stone” by the Bridgemen Alumni and the Jersey Surf in Allentown, PA. I really don’t know if, when the corps staff originally decided to pick this piece, year ago, they were aware of the biblical source, or deeper meaning of the lyrics, but it is really appropriate that Earth Wind & Fire’s alchemical masterpiece when on to become one of the corps signature numbers.
It was a brilliant performance, just a blow out… The Allentown crowd, many of whom were there to see us 40 years ago, were out in force, and very appreciative. Over the years the Bridgemen have, taken the kids from Jersey Surf under their wing as a “sister corps” so having them come out and play with the corps made the moment even sweeter… Like the passing of a torch to another generation.
We Bridgemen were the left wing radicals of drum corps back in our competing days… Never fearing to be different, outrageous, or innovative, we were the very definition of non-conformity at the height of the ’70s/early ’80s. It is reassuring to know that as this part of the Bridgemen story is coming to a close, the values and traditions we established are being remembered, recognized, and passed on to a new generation of kids.
In the meantime, there’s one more show next week in Indiana, and I’m the corps will be out there, throwing it down, like we always did, and leaving it all out on the field. Because in life, like in drum corps, that’s the only way to do it.